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It remains to be considered, what its merits are, when it imitates not by mere natural sound, but by sound significant; by words, the compact symbols of all kinds of ideas. From hence depends its genuine force. And here, as it is able to find sounds expressive of every idea, so is there no subject either of picture-imitation, or musical, to which it does not aspire ; all things and incidents whatever being, in a manner, to be described by words.
Whether, therefore, poetry, in this its proper sphere, be equal to the imitation of the other two arts, is the question at present which comes in order to be discussed.
Now as subjects are infinite, and the other two arts are not equally adapted to imitate all, it is proposed, first, to compare poetry with them in such subjects to which they are most perfectly adapted.
II. To begin, therefore, with painting. A subject in which the power of this art may be most fully exerted, (whether it be taken from the inanimate, or the animal, or the moral world,) must be a subject which is principally and eminently characterized by certain colours, figures, and postures of figures whose comprehension depends not on a succession of events; or at least, if on a succession, on a short and self-evident onewhich admits a large variety of such circumstances, as all concur in the same individual point of time, and relate all to one principal action.
As such a subject, therefore, inasmuch as poetry is forced to pass through the medium of compact, while painting applies immediately through the medium of nature; the one being understood to all, the other to the speakers of a certain language only: 8 inasmuch as natural operations must needs be more affecting than artificial : inasmuch as painting helps our own rude ideas by its own, which are consummate and wrought up to the perfection of art; while poetry can raise no other, than what every mind is furnished with before:" inasmuch as painting shews all the minute and various concurrent circumstances of the event in the same individual point of time, as they appear in nature; while poetry is forced to want this circumstance of intelligibility, by being ever obliged to enter into some degree of detail : inasmuch as this detail creates often the dilemma of either becoming 8 Note f, p. 28.
curate thought upon what grace, heaven, h When we read in Milton of Eve, that love, and dignity mean; or ever enriched Grace was in all her steps, heav'n in her eye, the mind with ideas of beauty, or asked In ev'ry gesture dignity and love ;
whence they are to be acquired, and by we have an image, not of that Eve which what proportions they are constituted. On Milton conceived, but of such an Eve only the contrary, when we view Eve as painted as every one, by his own proper genius, is by an able painter, we labour under no able to represent, from reflecting on those such difficulty ; because we have exhibited ideas which he has annexed to these several before us the better conceptions of an artist, sounds. The greater part, in the mean the genuine ideas of perhaps a Titian or a time, have never perhaps bestowed one ac- Raphael.
tedious, to be clear; or if not tedious, then obscure : lastly, inasmuch as all imitations more similar, more immediate, and more intelligible, are preferable to those which are less so; and for the reasons above, the imitations of poetry are less similar, less immediate, and less intelligible than those of painting. From all this it will follow, that in all subjects, where painting can fully exert itself, the imitations of painting are superior to those of poetry; and consequently, in all such subjects, that painting has the preference.
III. And now to compare poetry with music, allowing to music the same advantage of a well-adapted subject, which has already been allowed to painting in the comparison just preceding.
What such a subject is, has already been described. And as to preference, it must be confessed, that, inasmuch as musical imitations, though natural, aspire not to raise the same ideas, but only ideas similar and analogous;k while poetic imitation, though artificial, raises ideas the very same, inasmuch as the definite and certain is ever preferable to the indefinite and uncertain, and that more especially in imitations where the principal delight' is in recognising the thing imitated; it will follow from hence, that even in subjects the best adapted to musical imitation, the imitation of poetry will be still more excellent.
See chap. ii. sect. 2.
these imitations ; as we are enabled, in each * Page 31.
of them, to exercise the reasoning faculty ; | That there is an eminent delight in and, by comparing the copy with the archithis very recognition itself, abstract from type in our minds, to infer that this is such any thing pleasing in the subject recognised, a thing, and that another: a fact remarkis evident from hence, that, in all the able among children, even in their first and mimetic arts, we can be highly charmed earliest days. with imitations, at whose originals in na- Το τε γαρ μιμείσθαι, σύμφυτον τοίς ture we are shocked and terribed. Such, ανθρώποις εκ παίδων εστί, και τούτω διαφέfor instance, as dead bodies, wild beasts, povoi tây bałw (wwv, šti Miuntikúrarby and the like,
έστι, και τας μαθήσεις ποιείται διά μιμήThe cause, assigned for this, seems to be σεως τάς πρώτας και το χαίρειν τοις of the following kind. We have a joy, not μιμήμασι πάντας. Σημείον δε τούτου το only in the sanity and perfection, but also συμβαίνουν επί των έργων. “A γαρ αυτά in the just and natural energies of our λυπηρώς δρώμεν, τούτων τας εικόνας τας several limbs and faculties. And hence, μάλιστα ηκριβωμένας, χαίρομεν θεωρούνamong others, the joy in reasoning ; as τes' οίον θηρίων τε μορφές των άγριωτάbeing the energy of that principal faculty, των, και νεκρών. Αίτιον δε και τούτου, σαν intellect or understanding. This joy ότι μανθάνειν ου μόνον τους φιλοσόφους extends, not only to the wise, but to the ήδιστον, αλλά και τοις άλλοις ομοίως multitude. For all men have an aversion awéal Bpaxù koivwvollow aŭtoù. Ald το ignorance and error; and in some degree, γαρ τούτο χαίρουσι τας εικόνας δρώντες, however moderate, are glad to learn and to ότι συμβαίνει θεωρούντας μανθάνειν και inform themselves.
συλλογίζεσθαι, τι έκαστον οδον, ότι ούτος Hence, therefore, the delight arising from ékeivos. Arist. Poet. c. 4.
ON THE SUBJECTS WHICH POETRY IMITATES BY WORDS SIGNIFICANT,
BEING AT THE SAME TIME SUBJECTS NOT ADAPTED TO THE GENIUS OF
The mimetic art of poetry has now been considered in two views: first, as imitating by mere natural media; and in this it has been placed on a level with music, but much inferior to painting. It has been since considered as imitating through sounds significant by compact, and that in such subjects respectively, where painting and music have the fullest power to exert themselves. Here to painting it has been held inferior, but to music it has been preferred.
It remains to be considered, what other subjects poetry has left, to which the genius of the other two arts is not so perfectly adapted; how far poetry is able to imitate them; and whether, from the perfection of its imitation, and the nature of the subjects themselves, it ought to be called no more than equal to its sister arts; or whether, on the whole, it should not rather be called superior.
II. To begin, in the first place, by comparing it with painting.
The subjects of poetry, to which the genius of painting is not adapted, are, all actions, whose whole is of so lengthened a duration, that no point of time, in any part of that whole, can be given fit for painting ; neither in its beginning, which will teach what is subsequent; nor in its end, which will teach what is previous; nor in its middle, which will declare both the previous and the subsequent. Also all subjects so framed, as to lay open the internal constitution of man, and give us an insight into characters," manners, passions, and sentiments.
The merit of these subjects is obvious. They must necessarily m For a just and accurate description of Sentiments are discoverable in all those wholeness and unity, see Arist. Poet. chap. things, which are the proper business and 7 and 8; and Bossu, his best interpreter, end of speech or discourse. The chief in his treatise on the Epic Poem, book ii. branches of this end are to assert and chap 9–11.
prove ; to solve and refute ; to express or • For a description of character, see bc- excite passions ; to amplify'incidents, and low, note o, of this chapter.
to diminish them. It is in these things, As for manners, it may be said in general, therefore, that we must look for sentiment. that a certain system of them makes a See Arist. Poet. c. 19 : "EOTI Dė kard Thy character; and that as these systems, by Διάνοιαν ταύτα, όσα υπό του λόγου δει being differently compounded, make each a παρασκευασθήναι. Μέρη δε τούτων, το different character, so is it that one man τε αποδεικνύναι, και το λύειν, και το truly differs from another.
πάθη παρασκευάζειν, -και έτι μέγεθος, και Passions are obvious; pity, fear, anger, &c. σμικρότητα. .
of all be the most affecting, the most improving, and such of which the mind has the strongest comprehension.
For as to the affecting part, if it be true, that all events more or less affect us, as the subjects which they respect are more or less nearly related to us, then surely those events must needs be most affecting, to whose subjects we are of all the most intimately related. Now such is the relation which we bear to mankind; and men and human actions are the subjects here proposed for imitation.
As to improvement, there can be none surely (to man at least) so great, as that which is derived from a just and decent representation of human manners and sentiments. For what can more contribute to give us that master-knowledge, without which all other knowledge will prove of little or no utility?
As to our comprehension, there is nothing certainly of which we have so strong ideas, as of that which happens in the moral or human world. For as to the internal part, or active principle of the vegetable, we know it but obscurely; because there we can discover neither passion, nor sensation. In the animal world, indeed, this principle is more seen, and that from the passions and sensations which there declare themselves. Yet all still rests upon the mere evidence of sense ; upon the force only of external and unassisted experience. But in the moral or human world, as we have a medium of knowledge far more accurate than this, so from hence it is that we can comprehend accordingly.
With regard, therefore, to the various events which happen
• INDOI XATTON. But further, be the disasters being real, it can obtain the sides obtaining this moral science from the
same end. contemplation of human life, an end com- It must, however, for all this, be conmon both to epic, tragic, and comic poetry, fessed, that an effect of this kind cannot there is a peculiar end to tragedy, that of reasonably be expected, except among naeradicating the passions of pity and fear. tions, like the Athenians of old, who lived in "Έστιν ουν τραγωδία μίμησις πράξεως 8 perpetual attendance upon these theatrical σπουδαίας και τελείας-δι' ελέου και φόβου representations. For it is not a single or περαίνουσα την των τοιούτων παθημάτων occasional application to these passions, but kábapow. Arist. Poet. c. 6. “ Tragedy is a constant and uninterrupted, by which the imitation of an action important and alone they may be lessened or removed. perfect, through pity and fear working the It would be improper to conclude this purgation of such-like passions."
note, without observing, that the philosopher Tbere are none, it is evident, so devoid in this place by pity means not philanof these two passions, as those perpetually thropy, natural affection, a readiness to reconversant, where the occasions of them are lieve others in their calamities and distress; most frequent ; such, for instance, as the but, by pity, he means that senseless effemilitary men, the professors of medicine, minate consternation, which seizes weak chirurgery, and the like. Their minds, by minds, on the sudden prospect of any thing this intercourse, become, as it were, cal disastrous ; which, in its more violent lous ; gaining an apathy by experience, effects, is seen in shriekings, swoonings, &c. which no theory can ever teach them. a passion, so far from laudable, or from
Now, that which is wrought in these operating to the good of others, that it is men by the real disasters of life, may be certain to deprive the party, who labours supposed wrought in others by the fictions under its influence, of all capacity to do the of tragedy ; yet with this happy circum- least good office. stance in favour of tragedy, that, without
here, and the various causes by which they are produced ; in other words, of all characters, manners, human passions, and sentiments ; besides the evidence of sense, we have the highest evidence additional, in having an express consciousness of something similar within ; of something homogeneous in the recesses of our own minds; in that which constitutes to each of us his true and real self.
These, therefore, being the subjects, not adapted to the genius of painting, it comes next to be considered, how far poetry can imitate them.
And, here, that it has abilities clearly equal, cannot be doubted; as it has that for the medium of its imitation, through which nature declares herself in the same subjects. For the sentiments in real life are only known by men's discourse.P And the characters, manners, and passions of men, being the prompters to what they say, it must needs follow, that their discourse will be a constant specimen of those characters, manners, and passions.
Format enim natura prius nos intus ad omnem
Post effert animi motus, interprete lingua, 9 Not only, therefore, language is an adequate medium of imitation, but in sentiment it is the only. medium; and in manners and passions there is no other which can exhibit them to us after that clear, precise, and definite way, as they in nature stand allotted to the various sorts of men, and are found to constitute the several characters of each."
III. To compare, therefore, poetry, in these subjects, with painting : inasmuch as no subjects of painting are wholly superior to poetry; while the subjects, here described, far exceed the power of painting: inasmuch as they are, of all subjects, the most affecting and improving, and such of which we have the
P Page 36, note n.
therefore, that recourse must be had, not to 9 Hor. de Art. Poet. 108.
painting, but to poetry. So accurate a con" It is true, indeed, that (besides what is ception of character can be gathered only done by poetry) there is some idea of cha- from a succession of various and yet conracter, which even painting can communi- sistent actions; a succession, enabling us cate. Thus there is no doubt, but that to conjecture, what the person of the drama such a countenance may be found by will do in the future, from what already he painters for Æneas, as would convey, upon has done in the past. Now, to such an view, a mild, humane, and yet a brave dis imitation, poetry only is equal ; because it position. But then this idea would be is not bounded, like painting, to short, and, vague and general. It would be concluded, as it were, instant events, but may imitate only in the gross, that the hero was good. subjects of any duration whatever. See As to that system of qualities peculiar to Arist. Poet. c. 6. "Eoti 8è hoos her to Æneas only, and which alone properly con- τοιούτον, και δηλοί την προαίρεσιν οποία stitutes his true and real character, this τις εστίν, εν οις ουκ έστι δηλον, εί προαιwould still remain a secret, and be no way peital peuyer o néywv. See also the indiscoverable. For how deduce it from the genious and learned Bossu, book iv. c. 4. mere lineaments of a countenance ? Or, if • Pages 28 and 34. it were deducible, how few spectators would ! Page 37. there be found so sagacious ? It is here,